Report: GOP strategists are getting ready to ditch Trump for the down ticket

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Donald Trump Finally Endorses Paul Ryan, John McCain in Bid for Party Unity

On Friday night, Donald Trump finally got around to endorsing Congressman Paul Ryan and Senators John McCain and Kelly Ayotte in their respective races against primary opponents, after having hedged on offering that support earlier in the week following the uproar over the Republican nominee's recent attacks on the parents of a slain war hero. Trump's hesitance to support the trio had set off yet another maelstrom for his struggling campaign and led to fresh round of criticism from within the GOP establishment. But Trump's newest attempt at renewed GOP unity on Friday is unlikely to calm vulnerable Republican incumbents up for reelection this year. Indeed, the New York Times is reporting that top GOP strategists, growing increasingly resigned to the likelihood of Trump being an election-day disaster for the party, are now actively working on plans to distance down-ticket incumbents from the nominee.

Those plans exclude fully disavowing Trump (and potentially alienating his base), but include other coping mechanisms like accelerating the development of ads that distinguish GOP candidates from Trump — airing as soon as early next month — or possibly launching a large-scale ad campaign to support conventional Republican positions, thus bolstering the party itself instead of the party's nominee — or as the Times paraphrases one strategist's explanation, "to provide voters with a different, nonthreatening view of Republicans, so that the party is not wholly defined by Mr. Trump's day-to-day pronouncements."

SEE ALSO: Trump's plunge in polls has Republicans starting to panic

In addition the Club for Growth, a major conservative political group, is itself researching contingency plans to motivate voters who don't like Trump but might vote for down ticket candidates. And while the GOP's hold on the Senate is most at risk this year, Paul Ryan, who is himself facing an ugly — if not terribly risky — primary battle at home in Wisconsin, has warned Republican donors that the party's 30-seat majority in the House isn't safe either.

Speaking of the House, though he is retiring at the end of this year, another Republican representative, Virginia's Scott Rigell, said on Friday that he wouldn't be voting for Trump this fall, opting for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson instead. Earlier this week, New York representative Richard Hanna, also retiring this year, said that he would be voting for Clinton. In addition to those announcements, two Republicans in tight reelection races, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Iowa Representative David Young, both avoided Trump's events in their respective states on Friday.

In the meantime, while the Trump campaign continues to flail about in its attempt to operate as an actual campaign, the Clinton campaign is conducting business as usual. Bloomberg Politics reports that the campaign has placed at least $5.5 million in ad-time reservations on NBC's during its broadcasts of the Rio Olympics, 40 percent of which will be on the national network. That is compared with zero time reservations from the Trump campaign during any upcoming period, after already not having run any ads since May.

8 politicians who refuse to support Donald Trump:

Politicians who refuse to support Donald Trump
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Politicians who refuse to support Donald Trump

Mitt Romney has been critical of Trump's rhetoric. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Senator John Thune (R-SD) addresses delegates during the third session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 29, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Lee speaks during the Utah Solutions Summit Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Salt Lake City. Donald Trump's running mate Mike Pence is scheduled to make his first visit to Utah on Thursday since becoming a vice presidential candidate, and the Indiana governor is expected to use the visit to help bolster support for the Republican nominee. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush has not endorsed Trump, and insiders revealed in September he plans to vote for Hillary Clinton.


Former President George W. Bush campaigned for his brother Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush Monday, during the primary, and has taken what many think were subtle digs at Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, was one of Donald Trump's primary targets during the primary season. 

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich stayed in the primary longer than most other candidates, and notably refused to appear at the GOP convention in the same arena with Trump, attending other events instead. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a close friend to Sen. John McCain, has been a vocal critic of Trump's. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
UPDATE: Although he didn't endorse Trump during the 2016 convention, Ted Cruz eventually changed his mind, saying in September he'd vote for the GOP nominee (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) 
Pictured: George Pataki participates in CNBC's 'Your Money, Your Vote: The Republican Presidential Debate' live from the University of Colorado Boulder in Boulder, Colorado Wednesday, October 28th at 6PM ET / 8PM ET -- (Photo by: David A. Grogan/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
In this June 9, 2014, file photo, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk R-Ill., speaks in his office in Chicago. In his fight to keep his Senate seat, Kirk has repeatedly criticized opponent Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth's service as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. His latest attacks come in two new campaign ads. But the ads leave out important facts and context. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)
U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) addresses the second session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida August 28, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

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